Detroit

Politics
3:08 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Unnamed air carrier shows interest in Detroit's City Airport

A runway map of Detroit's City Airport
faa.gov

Detroit's Coleman A. Young International Airport, also called City Airport, might soon be seeing passengers for the first time since 2000.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Jason Watt, general manager of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, told the City Council on Thursday that the city has a letter of intent from a carrier interested in re-establishing scheduled passenger travel. He would not publicly identify the company.

The facility is still open for private pilots and cargo carriers, the Free Press reports, but prior to Thursday's anonymous show if interest, the airport's future wasn't looking particularly bright as city officials work to scale down Detroit's budget.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
12:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit unions weigh strike option as layoffs loom

wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Some Detroit municipal union leaders say striking is one of several options being discussed during ramped-up strategy sessions before new contract talks with the city begin.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 spokesman Ed McNeil says no strike vote has been taken "at this point."

McNeil said "people are looking at the system itself and are pretty disgusted with the city."

Union strategy sessions have become more agitated since Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a consent agreement that avoided appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit but now calls for steeper benefit cuts and more work rules concessions.

Detroit has an accumulated budget deficit of $265 million. Bing wants to cut more than 2,500 jobs and shave $250 million in annual expenses.

Politics
10:53 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit Council member Kwame Kenyatta won't seek re-election

Detroit Council member Kwame Kenyatta
Detroit City Council

Councilman Kenyatta says his time on city council will end after his current term ends in 18 months.

He told the Detroit News he wanted to announce his departure early to give constituents plenty of time to come up with a new representative on council.

Kenyatta was first elected to Detroit City Council in 2005, and had also served as a Wayne County Commissioner, and as vice president of the Detroit Board of Education.

Kenyatta told the News his reasons for leaving were "the recent consent agreement with the state, a perceived lawlessness in the city and the feeling that he's accomplished all that he can as a council member."

"At this point in time, my contribution has come to its limit and end," Kenyatta said. "I think politics in the city of Detroit is no longer people oriented, people based. I'm also frustrated by a sense of lawlessness in the streets, a lack of direction.

"We need people without a political agenda to be committed to getting us back on track. I think that's where the remainder of time on this earth should be spent."

Kenyatta was one of four Detroit City Council members who voted against the consent agreement with the state, saying the agreement is equivalent to "the overseer returning to take control of the plantation."

Kenyatta told the News he would devote his time to motivational speaking and trying to repair "some of the social ills of the city," once he's out of office.

Asked if there was a book in his future about his time in Detroit politics, Kenyatta laughed and said, "Oh, I'm already working on that."

People
2:59 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Ex-Detroit, Wayne County finance chief Marshall dies

DETROIT (AP) - Ex-Detroit and Wayne County financial chief Bella Marshall has died. She was 62.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says that Marshall died Tuesday morning at her home but didn't give the cause.

Marshall served as Detroit's finance director under longtime Mayor Coleman Young. She later served as Wayne County's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Marshall was married to the late casino promoter Don Barden but was in the midst of a contentious divorce when he died in May 2011.

Barden made millions with cable TV franchises in Detroit and the suburbs and later owned casinos in Indiana, Las Vegas, Colorado and Mississippi.

He and Marshall had feuded in recent years over Barden's ability to manage his assets.

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Commentary
11:51 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Commentary: More companies betting on Detroit

There’s an old Russian saying that, even, if you covered the world with asphalt, eventually a crack would form.

And in that crack, grass would grow. I was reminded of that yesterday by an Italian businessman my age, a man who is betting on green shoots coming through a town caked with many layers of asphalt. His name is Sergio Marchionne, and he is the CEO of a company called Fiat. Three years ago, he did something many at the time thought stupid. He took over a dying bankrupt company.

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Business
1:31 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Chrysler adds to business presence in downtown Detroit

The Dime Building/"Chrysler House"
wikimedia commons

Chrysler will start renting office space in a downtown Detroit skyscraper later this year.

Chrysler’s CEO and other business leaders have already re-christened the building “Chrysler House.”

Chrysler will move only about 70 employees into the former Dime building in the heart of downtown Detroit. But CEO Sergio Marchionne says it reflects Chrysler’s commitment to “put down roots” in the city and the region.

Marchionne says the resurgent Chrysler sees its own fortunes tied to Detroit’s.

“The people of Detroit and this region have contributed to making our country great again with their talent, their commitment, and their sweat," Marchionne said. "Detroit is the place that we feel at home. That’s why we’re proud to say that from now on, this building is going to be known as Chrysler House.”

Marchionne also noted Chrysler’s plans to “substantially expand” its industrial presence in the city. The automaker plans to re-open one Detroit assembly plant, and up production at two others by next year.

The move is also another win for the city’s central business district, which has announced some major new tenants in the past few months.

Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert has been one of the key figures pushing to revitalize downtown with his Detroit 2.0 initiative.

“Together we are creating an urban core in downtown Detroit, that will be a spark of the entire region, that will have jobs, growth, and excitement,” Gilbert said.

Marchionne says Chrysler employees will move in once the space is refurbished, likely sometime this summer.

The Detroit Free Press also reports that Chrysler has now committed $3.3 million to help build a light rail project in downtown Detroit. The M-1 rail project will jumpstart with funds from private backers. It's still awaiting approval from city, state, and federal officials.

Arts
5:00 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Empty Detroit police station? How about an art gallery?

An architectural rendering of the updated precinct
555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios

A non-profit arts organization is setting up shop inside a vacant police precinct in southwest Detroit.

The old 3rd Precinct is now owned by the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios. The organization is run by volunteers and, according to it's website, provides "affordable studios and workspace, gallery space, exhibition programs, arts education programs, and an artist in residency program."

From the AP:

The 7,000-square-foot ex-precinct has been stripped to raw concrete. Its 21 jail cells remain intact.

555 wants to put in a gallery space, build seven private studio spaces and an Education and Programming Studio.

As for the jail cells, 555 says they're "ready to be used for creativity."

555 plans to hold a fundraiser in their new space this evening featuring "food and drink, live aerial performance and music."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Arts/Culture
8:00 am
Fri April 27, 2012

Detroit's Roaming Table mixes civic engagement and urban planning

The Roaming Table is part of Detroit Works' civic engagement efforts

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson last week debunked the conventional wisdom that Detroit has 40 square miles of vacant land. In her report she found that in all likelihood the number is probably closer to half that.

Which, if you think about it, is still a lot of empty land. 

Which is where the Detroit Works Project comes in -- that's the name of Mayor Dave Bing's revitalization plan for the city. The Detroit Works team has to figure out what to do with all that empty land. To help them find some answers, they're turning to Detroit's residents for help.

They're also enlisting the help of ... a table.

A table, you say?

Yes. But this is no ordinary table, dear reader. The purpose of this particular table is to "disrupt people’s everyday lives," according to Theresa Skora, who helped design it.

"It’s meant to fold up and be put into a car and be taken around," says Skora. Which is why they call it the Roaming Table.  And believe it or not this table – with its nifty green logo and stacks of glossy pamphlets – is key to the city's revitalization plan aka Detroit Works.

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Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Fri April 27, 2012

Job prospects improving in most of Michigan

Job applicant Daniel Zanetti talks with a recruiter at the Michigan Works job fair at the Lansing Center
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Unemployment rates declined in most of Michigan during the past month.

State officials reported Thursday the Detroit Metro region saw the sharpest decline, down about six tenths of a percent from February to March.   Unemployment ticked up slightly in Ann Arbor.

In Lansing, unemployment held steady at 7.2%.

Daniel Zanetti was at a job fair in Lansing Thursday.    The recent college graduate is hopefully he can soon find a job in his field.

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Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Most Michigan cities see declining home foreclosure filings

(file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Most Michigan cities saw their home foreclosure rates tumble during the first quarter of the year. One analyst says that might signal a trend for the rest of 2012. 

Home foreclosure filings dropped between 20% and 30% in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids during the first three months of the year. That's compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to Realty Trac. 

Lansing was the only Michigan city on Realty Trac’s list to see an increase in home foreclosure filings between January and March. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.

He says Lansing’s foreclosure rate increase was tied to a big increase in final bank repossessions. "It seems like it’s more of a clearing out of the foreclosure pipeline rather than a lot a new foreclosures coming online and starting the process," says Bloomquist. 

Bloomquist expects other Michigan housing markets will see spikes in foreclosure filings as the year goes on, but he predicts the general trend will be fewer foreclosures in Michigan.

Politics
9:32 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Detroit City Council member: I've received death threats after consent deal vote

Detroit City Council member Saunteel Jenkins.

People in public life are in the spotlight, and are often the target of people's vitriol when they make unpopular decisions.

It's no different in Detroit.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins told WWJ she's received death threats after her vote to approve a consent agreement with the state earlier this month.

From WWJ:

“I’ve received some threats, yes,” said Jenkins. ”It’s especially unnerving when in addition to threats, people are picketing at your private home.”

Jenkins said it’s all over her “yes” vote supporting the consent agreement. While things haven’t escalated to violence, Jenkins has had to ask for police protection at least once...

Jenkins said when she ran for a seat on City Council, she had no idea how difficult it would be.

“I had no idea, but I keep saying, you can’t complain when you get what you asked for. I asked for this, but I had no idea. I knew it would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be this rough,” she said.

Jenkins told WWJ that other council members have also received threats - she didn't identify their names.

Business
11:51 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Marathon Oil offers more money in Detroit neighborhood buyout plan

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is expanding its facility.
Marathon Oil Company

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is in the process of expanding its facility to process heavier crude oil from Canada.

The expansion brings the company's new refining equipment closer to Detroit's Oakwood Heights neighborhood.

Marathon has been offering to buy homes in this neighborhood to create a buffer zone between the refinery and other residential areas.

Some homeowners in Oakwood Heights have signed on with the buyouts, others have stayed put.

The Detroit News' Jim Lynch reports Marathon has upped the amount it's willing to pay:

This month, Marathon officials said 86 percent of the owners have chosen to enroll in the buyout program — meaning they are willing to have their home appraised and see a monetary offer from the company.

Marathon is sweetening the pot, too, as it initially set a minimum appraisal price of $40,000 per home but already has bumped that figure up to $50,000.

The buyout plan is expected to head off lawsuits from those who live in this area. So far, the program has avoided legal entanglements, but it has generated plenty of hard feelings.

Oakwood Heights is an area surrounded by heavy industry. In addition to the refinery, there's the city's sewage treatment plant, a salt mine, a steel factory, and other industries.

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Commentary
11:23 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Commentary: What do huge spending cuts mean for Detroit?

Detroit, as you probably know, is trying desperately to avoid emergency manager status, bankruptcy, or both.

Governor Rick Snyder isn’t the most popular figure in Motown these days, but he is on the same page with city leaders on that, which is why he helped craft the so-called consent agreement.

The mechanics of it are still being worked out. But yesterday, Mayor Dave Bing proposed a new city budget that was almost frightening in terms of its austerity, and depressing when you think of the services this once-great city used to provide.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Gov. Snyder: More urgency needed to fix Detroit's problems

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder said he wants to see a stronger sense of urgency for action in Detroit.

He outlined his vision for the city in a speech to business leaders today.

Snyder’s vision includes Detroit being a manufacturing center that exports goods across the world; and a welcoming place for immigrants.

He said the city also needs to reverse the trend of young families fleeing the city.

“If we’re going to succeed, we have to have neighborhoods where people want to raise a family. They want to live there. They want their kids going to school. And they want an environment to say, ‘When you grow up, you can have a house in this neighborhood,’ because you can have your grandkids nearby. That has to be part of the vision,” said Snyder.

Snyder said the two groups that left Detroit in the greatest numbers over the past decade were adults aged 25 to 29, and children between five and nine.

The governor said progress is being made, but he wants to see a greater sense of urgency.

“But I’m not seeing it across the board yet about approaching problems. But why do we need that sense of urgency? One is it’s the best way to do things, is to just go after it. But one thing we need to recognize is that every day we don’t take action to move Detroit forward, we are moving backward,” said Snyder.

The governor said municipal bankruptcy is still not out of the question for Detroit.

Education
2:55 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

U of M, Focus Hope team up on Detroit community development inititaive

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad creative commons

Focus Hope, a well-known social services organization in Detroit, has spent decades providing food, career training and other services to people throughout southeast Michigan.

Now the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute is kicking in roughly $200,000 to help the nonprofit with its Focus Hope Village Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to transform the 100-block area around the Focus Hope campus, where thousands live at or below the poverty line.

John Callewaert is leading the U of M side of things. He says they’ll be working on six projects ranging from legal issues around vacant land to developing playgrounds to "moving towards college readiness" within the community.

He says the strategies developed could be used as a model for other areas with "lots of open space and economic decline." 

According to Focus Hope, their Village Initiative is based on a successful model being used in New York:

This initiative is inspired by the adage that it "takes a village to raise a child.” Much like the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, the HOPE Village Initiative will bring together whatever resources are necessary to transform our community. Already, parents, businesses, retirees, educators, block clubs and others are working together to create opportunities for our children.

Each of the six projects will receive up to $30,000 over 18 months.

Politics
6:37 am
Mon April 23, 2012

Gov. Snyder set to talk about Detroit's economic future

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder is coming to Detroit to discuss the economic future of Michigan's largest city. Snyder is participating in an event Monday sponsored by Crain's Detroit Business and being held at the Max Fisher music center, home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Snyder's office says the governor will participate in a "working group session," then deliver public remarks.

Snyder and Detroit officials recently reached a deal that created a joint oversight panel to monitor the city's efforts to close its budget deficit. The panel was a compromise that froze the state's move toward appointment of an emergency financial manager.

Detroit has lost most of its population and jobs over six decades, going from 1.8 million residents in the 1950 U.S. Census to 713,000 in 2010.

Detroit
2:02 pm
Sun April 22, 2012

Detroit fire boss: Let vacant buildings burn down

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit's fire boss suggests his department could adjust to a looming 15 percent budget cut by letting some abandoned buildings burn to the ground and using firefighters and even Navy Seabees to demolish vacant structures.

Executive Fire Commissioner Donald Austin says he's creating three proposals for Mayor Dave Bing to consider in making deep reductions from the current budget year's $183 million spending plan.

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Detroit
4:09 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing says he'll be back in the office by end of the month

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Dave Hogg Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he's at least 80 percent healed from major surgery and plans to return to city hall on April 30.

Bing had surgery for a perforated intestine in late March and then returned to the hospital on April 4 because of blood clots in his lungs. His health problems occurred while the city and the state of Michigan were working on an extraordinary deal to fix Detroit's finances.

The 68-year-old mayor said during a conference call Friday the only thing holding him back is the healing of his incision. Bing says he lost 12 pounds because of restrictions on what he could eat.

A deal between Detroit and the state calls for a chief financial officer, a program manager and a nine-member board to oversee spending.

Changing Gears
11:39 am
Fri April 20, 2012

On Earth Day, turning the Motor City into "Cycle City"

The Tigers' mascot, Paws, with cyclists who rode to Opening Day 2012.
courtesy Detroit Tigers

Let’s face it: Detroit’s reputation as the Motor City is unshakeable. But it’s gaining ground as a city for cyclists.

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Politics
9:33 am
Fri April 20, 2012

Michigan's high court says "no" to review of Detroit consent deal

The Michigan Hall of Justice, home to Michigan's Supreme Court.
michiganradio.org

Earlier this month, some opposed to the state's efforts to enter into a consent agreement with Detroit tried to stop the process from going forward - arguing in front of an Ingham County judge that the state did not comply with Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

The judge agreed and ordered a halt to the process, but in an appeal by the state the Michigan Court of Appeals put a stay on the judge's decision.

Union activist and Highland Park school board member Robert Davis appealed all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Today, the Michigan Supreme Court said it won't take up Davis' appeal.

The Associated Press reports "in an order dated Friday that it wasn't persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed."

Robert Davis is the Highland Park school board member who is currently under a federal indictment for stealing funds from Highland Park schools. He says he will fight the charges.

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